Jennifer Bree, Resettlement Team Leader

Eaves' Scarlet Centre

Jenny says…

“The Scarlet Centre is a safe place for women who have been affected by violence to access advice and support. The centre is made up of various specialist teams who can support women who have experienced any form of violence, such as childhood sexual abuse, sexual violence, gang related violence, ‘honour’ crimes, domestic violence or prostitution. We can also help women who are homeless or facing homelessness.

“My role as Resettlement Team Leader is to support vulnerable women who have needs around homelessness, as well as managing a team of two staff. The team and I supported approximately 500 of the 2,400 women who accessed the centre last year.

“There is no such thing as a ‘typical day’ at the Scarlet Centre as it all very much depends on the needs of the women who access the service. Some women come in to use the computers in order to do things like apply for jobs, whilst others come in to access counselling, workshops, or our in-house job centre plus service, and other women might just need some time out and someone to talk to.

“Every day I work with women who are in crisis; it may be that they are fleeing a violent relationship or they may have become homeless and have no idea what they should do next, or who they should turn to. A large part of my day-to-day work is advocating for women, trying to get them social housing; however, due to the housing crisis, it is not always easy for women to access housing, especially if they are single women.

“When we can’t get them into social housing, we try then to them into a refuge, hostel or a night shelter; however, there aren’t enough of those to meet demand either.

“What we don’t do at the Scarlet Centre is give up on women. Sometimes we have to give safety advice to the women who will just have to sleep rough, such as staying on night buses or going to public places like Accident and Emergency departments. It’s really distressing to have to do that, and there’s always the thought in the back of your mind; “I hope they make it through the night without harm”. In these situations we also give women warm clothes, food and toiletries, so they can clean themselves up too.

“Women who access the centre have been through very difficult experiences and often their self-esteem and confidence is very low. So a big part of my job is to help them gain that confidence and autonomy back. The workshops that we run at the centre are great for women to rebuild their confidence, learn new skills and equip them with the tools they need to move on from their experiences. The workshops cover a variety of topics from CV writing, interview skills and dealing with debt, to healthy eating, employment advice and speaking with confidence.

“I and the other workers deliver the workshops ourselves or we work with corporate volunteers who also want to share their skills. My favourite workshop to deliver is on building self-esteem, because you can actually see the women become more confident throughout the session. I find that incredibly rewarding. I also go out to different London boroughs to deliver workshops to women who may not be able to come to the centre in south London for one reason or another.

“Referrals to the centre come via different routes such as the police, colleges, GPs, other voluntary organisations and the women themselves. Quite often we take referrals from women who have been advised to come to us by women whom we’ve helped in the past. That always makes me feel proud of what we do; those women have faith in us, which reinforces the importance of our service.

“Often people ask, “How can you do such a depressing job?” I would be lying if I said that the women’s experiences never affect me; however, nothing gives me greater satisfaction than being in the privileged position of helping those women turn their lives around. I am immensely proud of the work that is carried out at the Scarlet Centre and amazed and inspired by the team I work with, and most of all of the women who access the service. They truly are an inspiration.”

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